An aerial view of the Educate Together Secondary School at Colpe surrounded by acres of land.
In what must rank as one of the quickest about-turns ever, the Department of Education has revoked its decision to relocate the Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School.
Their announcement on February 1st that they had decided to move the school from Mill Road in Mornington to the St. Oliver’s Campus in Drogheda was met with widespread disbelief and outrage.
The most indignant response came from the school’s management and parents of children attending the school who immediately launched a very well organised campaign to keep the school where it is.
Their demands for talks with the Minister and her Department fell on deaf ears for two weeks but when it was revealed to Deputy Ged Nash that the government had already spent over €2million on the Mill Road site, talks became inevitable.
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On Wednesday a meeting between Department officials, school management and the landowner (Shannon Homes) took place and agreement was reached. At 7.15 last night the Department released the following statement:
“Agreement in principle has now been reached to acquire a site for the permanent location of Drogheda Education Together Secondary School. This agreement is subject to contract and conveyancing. The location of the permanent site will incorporate the current temporary site at Mill Road, Drogheda at which the school is currently located...
“It is envisaged that the permanent accommodation for the school will be delivered under the Department’s Design & Build programme. Reaching agreement in principle in relation to the acquisition of the site is a key milestone for the delivery of the permanent accommodation…”
Expressing their delight at the outcome the DETSS Parents Building Committee said they were “…extremely grateful to all of our local TDs who worked tirelessly over the past weeks to ensure our school remains on the Mill Road….We also really appreciate all the support given to us by the local community and representatives over the last three weeks, including the over 3600 people who signed our petition.
“We would also like to thank Meath County Council for their trojan work in helping get this over the line in partnership with the Department of Education and the landowner.
“Most importantly, thank you to all our parents, students, our amazing school principal Susan Campbell, teachers and staff for so passionately supporting our school and rejecting the move. Your voice to ensure our wonderful school remained at the heart of our community was heard loud and clear and was instrumental in creating a strong, united message to government.
“… This has been an incredibly stressful time for students, parents and the school’s staff and we do hope that no other school and community has to endure what we just experienced.
We trust all key parties will ensure that building works begin as soon as possible and we look forward to seeing our permanent school flourish on the Mill Road as a key part of our powerful, united community.
The school’s patron of, Educate Together, has been in regular contact with the Department of Education and the Drogheda ETSS board of management in relation to the school’s location and accommodation.
In a statement, also issued last night, they said they are committed to working with the Department and other stakeholders to improve current systems and process to ensure that suitable temporary and permanent accommodation is provided for schools in a timely fashion.
“Considerable improvements are required in our planning systems so that school communities have certainty in relation to their accommodation much sooner, and so that they do not have to move multiple times” they said. “In this regard, Educate Together continue to call for a cross-departmental review of the wider planning processes around school buildings and school sites.
Their CEO, Emer Nowlan, said: “This is wonderful news for Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School, which can now continue to grow and develop in its current location, becoming a thriving school serving the community in East Meath. It is particularly welcome news for students in the school and their families, for whom the uncertainty of recent weeks has been unsettling.”
Educate Together also expressed their gratitude to Louth and Meath Education and Training Board and the management of St Oliver’s Community College for offering to provide space for the temporary relocation of Drogheda ETSS, which will now be no longer necessary.
Deputy Ged Nash told Drogheda Life that he believes that the information released to him last week that the State had already spent €2.12m on the site was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” on this issue.
“The Department could not walk away from the site and justify this level of spending” he said. “I want to congratulate all the students, parents, guardians and staff who campaigned on this important issue, but it was sad that so much unnecessary distress was caused along the way.”
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